On the Shoulders of the Great Bear

by Andrew Cronshaw

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"Cronshaw's musical wanderlust drew him to Finland for 1993's “The Language of Snakes”, a connection that this long-awaited follow-up develops further. The most obvious link is between his zither and the Finnish kantele, but Cronshaw takes the connection further by introducing the marovantele, a hybrid of kantele and marovany, the Malagasy instrument familiar to him from his work with Madagascar's excellent Tarika. When that instrument is used to suspend twinkling trails of notes behind Ian Blake's meditative soprano sax figures, as on “Ema Haual/Hällilaul”, the effect is utterly enchanting.
The tunes are mostly taken from traditional Finnish and Ural airs, along with a few others of Celtic derivation, but in each case Cronshaw blurs the borders to produce something unique, whether it is the layers of shawm, sax and concertina adding warm, Celtic textures to “Halullinen Sielu/Käin Minä Kaunista”, or the Finnish singer Jenny Wilhelms offering a vocal interpretation of a Gaelic lament.
Most striking of all is the title track, a reference to Finland's place in relation to Russia, in which jew's-harp sets up a hypnotic resonance behind the bizarre growled rap that Heikki Laitinen constructs from mythological runic imagery. Even at this early stage, it's safe to say you'll hear nothing else like it all year.

Perhaps as a result of our being such a mix’n’match culture to begin with, British musicians excel in the subtle art of hybridisation. The average American muso, faced with the task of reconciling apparently disparate cultural modes, is more likely to use them as separate, ethnically “correct” sections in some grandiose multipartite composition that has as little to do with the notion of combination as American society has with the notion of a “melting pot” culture. We Brits, on the other hand, are fortunate enough to live in a culture that, rather than viewing other cultures with suspicion, exults in their very difference and seeks to introduce their music into our native strains.
There are few more specific indicators of a country's culture than its folk music, yet as far back as the mid-Sixties, the likes of the Incredible String Band were introducing such exotic elements as sitar and gimbri into their Celtic-mystic whimsy, with unparalleled commercial success. The zither virtuoso Andrew Cronshaw is, in some ways, the ISB's direct descendant. He has sought in his records to find some rapprochement between folk and New Age music, while his performances have struck out from folk's traditional bar-room home - in the early Nineties, for instance, he did a tour of English village churches."



released January 1, 2000

Cloud Valley CV2007

Andrew Cronshaw: zither, marovantele, ba-wu, shawm, concertina, marovany, jew's-harps, quenacho, whisltes, fujara, gong, footsteps, giant triangle
Ian Blake: soprano sax, bass clarinet, hot fountain pen, voice, tuohitorvi
Bernard O'Neill: double bass
Heikki Laitinen: voice
Jenny Wilhelms: voice
Hannu Saha: kanteles
Minna Raskinen: concert kantele
Kimmo Sarja: voice

Produced by Andrew Cronshaw, with Ian Blake, Bernard O'Neill and Antti Rintamäki.
Engineered and mastered by Antti Rintamäki.
Recorded and mixed at Soiva Kivi studio, Kansantaiteenkeskus, Kaustinen, Keski-Pohjanmaa, Finland, in February and May-June 1999; some parts also recorded in Pelimannitalo, outside Kaustinen church, and on the frozen sea at Ratan, northern Sweden.
Photos by Antti Rintamäki.
Pack design by Andrew Cronshaw & Jali Roll Martian

to Bernard and Ian (the porridge twins), Antti, Hannu, Heikki, Minna, Jenny and Kimmo for their commitment, generosity, and for being so splendid to work with. Antti Hosioja, Janne Virkkala and Jaakko Järvelä for the loan of basses when Bernard’s succumbed to the climate. Brian Finnegan for the gift of the Hungarian whistle. Balázs Szokolay for finding the fujara, and Gábor Reöthy for driving it from Budapest to Vienna. Kimmo Sarja for making the world’s first (and second) marovanteles. Tytti Metsä for introducing me to snow angels. Ian Anderson. Malcolm Taylor at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library for letting me keep books out for years. Kansantaiteenkeskus (the Folk Arts Centre) and Kansanmusiikki-instituutti (the Folk Music Institute) and all their staff for help, facilities, books, big instruments, purple porridge and a perfect working environment. All the people in Kaustinen and the rest of Finland who’ve looked after a recurrent fast-talking foreigner during the last decade.



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Andrew Cronshaw London, UK

Andrew Cronshaw is a British multi-instrumentalist and producer, leader of the Finnish/Armenian/British band SANS, who also has a long career as a writer on roots musics, particularly those of the Nordic, Baltic, eastern and central European and Iberian regions, for fRoots, The Rough Guide to World Music etc. ... more

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